KUALA LUMPUR: Acrid haze thickened over Malaysia as smoke from a large number of forest fires in nearby Indonesia shrouded the peninsula's heavily populated west coast, officials said on Wednesday.
The Department of Environment said the air pollution index on Wednesday morning in the town of Muar in southern Johor state climbed to 84 close to unhealthy levels, which range between 101 and 200.
The coastal fishing town of Kuala Selangor posted a reading of 72. In the town of Nilai in Negeri Sembilan, just south of the capital Kuala Lumpur, the index was 73.
An officer at the meteorological services department said that winds from a dry annual southwest monsoon were blowing the haze across to Malaysia.
But the officer, who declined to be named, added that a wetter monsoon period and change in wind direction could help to clear the air.
"The haze is expected to taper off by the end of September when the inter-monsoon rains bring in a lot of thunderstorm and rains in the west coast part of the peninsula," she said.
The official said most of the fires causing the haze were located in forests on Indonesia's Sumatra island, which is separated from Malaysia only by a narrow waterway.
“The environment department's satellite images late on Tuesday showed some 519 fires in Sumatra and 40 hotspots in Indonesia's Kalimantan on Borneo Island,” she said.
Burning in Indonesia and some parts of Malaysia to clear land for crops causes an annual haze affecting the region. The fires are set mainly by plantation owners.